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Speech on the International Human Rights Day

Respectfully, I would like to accept the award given to me by American Islamic Congress, New England Interfaith Council for my human rights activities and congratulate everyone on the occasion of international human rights day. Surviving two world wars, in 1948 human race decided to plan for a war free, discrimination free and violence free world. Each of the 30 articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is influenced by the love of mankind for mankind and human dignity, free of gender, religion, conscience, ethnicity, opinion, and economic conditions. Now that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is 62 years old and we are celebrating its anniversary, this human’s identity defined by what is prescribed in the Declaration is the accomplishment of a war torn and deprived man of the 20th century. In other words, it is a novel idea and many countries’ lack of regard for it must not disappoint us.

The Persian Gulf

Neither the allies of the US nor any world power has the authority under international law, custom or ethics to unilaterally impose itself on the US navy and change the name of the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Gulf. Speaking about the change in the name of the Persian Gulf, sources close to the US Navy recently told a BBC reporter, “This decision was made because US allies in the region generally and in their official correspondence use the term Arabian Gulf and we have stopped using the term Persian Gulf in order to be in line with them and will now be using the term the Arabian Gulf.”

Constitutional Obstacles to the Realization of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran – Part 6

Today, as in the past, the traditionalists are propagating the view that political pluralism will lead to anarchy, chaos and deviation from the most basic principles of Islam. In other words, they posit security, stability and their particular interpretation of Islamic principles as counterpoints to political pluralism and democracy. The reformist elites and intellectuals, on the other hand, advanced the idea that we need pluralism in order to safeguard the state itself. They argued that positing of stability/security and pluralism as opposites is erroneous, pointing out that no stable system can be found in the world today without political freedoms and pluralism embedded within. They also rejected the notion that there is in fact a dichotomy between Islam and democracy, arguing that any religion that accepts the notion of free will has embedded in it the principles of choice and freedom in every aspect of social life. Despite experiencing much hardship, intimidation and even violence, these elites and intellectuals continued to argue for political freedoms.

Constitutional Obstacles to the Realization of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran – Part 5

The second factor impeding effective parliamentary rule in post-constitutional Iran was the existence of royal courts. Resistance to power sharing and a law-based framework that delineates limitations on the exercise of power is not unique to Iran. Perhaps what distinguishes Iran is the intensity and consistency with which popular forces have attempted to place limits on the power and authority of Iran’s rulers throughout the twentieth century and, in turn, the consistency of those rulers’ resistance to such legal limitations. Constitutional monarchs have repeatedly reverted back to absolute dictatorships, despite revolutions and popular uprisings, while supposed republican leaders have also done the same despite a revolution made in the name of opposition to dictatorship.

Constitutional Obstacles to the Realization of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran – Part 4

Even though the 1906 constitution emphasized that Shi’ism would be the official religion of the state, Article 15 designated the Majles as the primary source of legislation. This is opposed by religious law. Moreover, because of parliamentary supremacy in legislating laws, opportunities arose to revamp previous linkages between religion and the law. The first Majles, for example, took on the contentious question of criminal law. Since Islam contains a vast corpus of laws in this realm, such as the law of qissas (law of retribution), law of diyat (plural of diya, referring to the law which prescribes payment of a sum of money or other things of value in return for the harm caused by a crime), law of ta’zirat (plural of ta’zir, referring to punishments not specified in religion over which the judge has discretion and may include imprisonment, lashes or fines), and so on, the fundamental question facing the Majles was how to approach these traditional modes of carrying out justice in the Shari’a courts used prior to the Constitutional Revolution.

Prisoners’ Rights

The executive regulations of “State Prisons and Security and Corrective Measure Organization” [State Prison Organization], which were published in the issue 13440/84 of official newspaper on December 14, 2005 after being approved by the judiciary’s head, make the judiciary the sole body responsible for responding to the complaints by prisoners, lawyers and prisoners’ families. According to these regulations, an institution such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), for example, has no right or duty to interfere with the rights and privileges of prisoners. These regulations stress the country’s judiciary as the only authority responsible for the life, health, security and, on the whole, human dignity of prisoners. Some of the articles and amendments introduced by this body of regulations, which have assumed urgency, especially after the June election of 2009 and the ensuing crisis of prisoners’ rights, will be examined in this piece.

Review of Mehrangiz Kar’s book, Crossing the Red Line: The Struggle for Human Rights in Iran

This memoir opens a small window into the life of a fascinating Iranian woman who grew up in a provincial city, obtained a law degree in Tehran and gained, while still fairly young, access to the upper echelons of the country’s intellectual and semi-official milieus. Defying stereotyping of all sorts, Kar’s account offers an antidote to the Western essentializing tendency toward Muslim Iranians. The family was kept together by a remarkable mother who, despite a provincial upbringing and religious devotion, refused to impose Islamic dress code on an obviously attractive daughter entering high-school.

Women and the Constitutional Movement, Men’s Chaste Wives and Daughters

The Constitutional Revolution challenged absolute rule and made rulers accountable to people’s representatives. Now that we look back at the past and examine it judiciously, we realize that the issuance of the decree for constitutional monarchy by the Qajar king was a tremendous feat. Although the Constitutional Movement was plagued by a capitulating mentality, the siege by a large army and the provocations of Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri, it finally triumphed after staging a massive resistance. That is why we can now speak of Constitutional Movement and a sharia-based system of government that tried, and is trying, to sabotage it.

Constitutional Obstacles to the Realization of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran – Part 3

In some ways, a history of confrontation persuaded the proponents of “modern ways” to undertake, for instance, the translation and publication of Western works in order to introduce these views and values into the society at large. On the other hand, the same confrontation convinced the supporters of traditional values to make utmost use of their influence over the traditional sectors of the population— creating a tension in order to place pressure on the constitutionalists. The aforementioned supplement to the constitution was the initiative of a group of people who wished to avoid an all-out anti-constitutional uprising. In this document, they attempted to prove that constitutional monarchy was not at odds with the tenets of Islam. Ultimately, Articles One and Two of the supplement were integrated into the document.

Constitutional Obstacles to the Realization of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran – Part 2

Much of the contemporary history of Iran is a narrative of clashes between aspirations for and obstacles of political participation. Herein is also a tale of conflict between modernity and tradition, at times leading to dramatic consequences including two revolutions. One starting point for this tale is the call for a constitutional monarchy in 1906; a change from an autocratic system to a constitutional monarchy was the galvanizing motivation and aspiration of Iran’s Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to1911.